Morality as per Sylvester & Tweety

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #3 – Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird.

Sylvester the cat wants to eat Tweety Bird. Just as he is about to put the little yellow morsel into his mouth, up pops two miniatures of Sylvester himself. One is angelic and the other a demonic image of himself. Each sits on the opposite shoulder and whispers their counsel into Sylvester’s ears.

Is this just a cartoon feature? How about neo-Platonic morality developed by Augustine and encouraged later by later thinkers known as absolutists!

You may be surprised to learn preaching what is moral has not been limited to the church pulpit. There are several systems of principles that have been developed over time. These systems are the practical application to particular beliefs. Your university education will expose you to diverse beliefs.

Man Angel on Shoulder

The science of moral philosophy is known as ethics. The terms ethics and morality are synonymous. They both are derived from words which mean customs and indicate how people are to behave within a given Society.

Ethics is derived from the Greek term, ethika, a derivative itself from ethos, emphasizing character with customs.

Morals is the equable derivative of the Latin term, mores. Mores has been transported into English to mean rules related to the conduct, manners and behavior of people to others.

Sylvester and Tweety as Food

As a branch of philosophy, ethics belongs to the normative sciences. Normative has to do with what is the norm of human conduct. This type of science differs from the formal sciences like mathematics and the empirical sciences such as social sciences. Normative science takes place when psychology scrutinizes the social conditions involved in developing moral principles.

Ethics as a disciple is a collection of “doctrines” which govern social manners. The use of the term “doctrine” is very familiar to you as a Christian. It is the same term used by non-Christians in philosophical discussions. In Western Civilization, these doctrines have been debated since the 6th century BC. Philosophers still strive to articulate what is good and right.

When you begin your university training, you will find yourself inside the chambers where morals are still under debate. That is why it is important you understand ethical principles and how they relate to your Christian values.

Posts in this series:

Morality is Virtue

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #2 – Laws serve to represent Society’s morals. They are given with the assumption citizens are capable of obeying and upholding them.

When morality is viewed as a code of behavior, it implies each person is virtuous or, in the least, capable of exercising virtue. That means behavior codes assume you can respect the rules of “right” in relation to social customs.

As a Christian, you may view moral codes as divine law and not human law. You need to recognize that both divine and human law agree that a person who follows the rules of the school; obeys the law of the land; adheres to the creed of a church, et al; such behavior is classified as virtuous.

In plainer language: there are just some actions you know are right thing to do whether or not they come from the Church, the University or your future Employer.

doorhold

Previously, it was considered right and proper for a man to hold the door open for a lady. Today no such social expectation is preached. What was virtuous in Western Civilization previously many not be regarded as such today.

So, how does a Christian know what to do when? Is it proper to conform Society’s standards of morality?

Morality is a code of behavior. What does that mean?

  • Certain actions are accepted as “good”
  • Performing those actions are “virtuous”
  • Virtuous behavior is acceptable “deportment”
  • Right deportment are actions that conform to Divine Law.

At the end of the day, no matter the standards of Society, the Divine Code propagates a superior virtue. Exercise the “mores” of Society only when there is no clear contradiction to the Divine Code.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29

What is the Divine Code? Traditionally, it is known as the 10 Commandments. They form the basis of 603 additional laws issued through Moses. However, Jesus summarized them into 3 (Matthew 22:36-40):

  • Love your Self
  • Love your Neighbor
  • Love your Creator

Morality Is A Behavior Code

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #1 – Morality has become associated as a code of behavior. The philosophers believed a certain conduct would lead to happiness.

The early church taught, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The pursuit of happiness is not the deportment of Christianity; but rather the pursuit of godly living—living in a way that is God-like. It is not the arrogant pursuit of being gods as Adam and Eve erred (Genesis 3:5) but a contentment to live as God directs in accordance to His word.

From the very beginning, God has been interested in His creation doing what He says to bring them the greater benefit (Genesis 3:11). Philosophy can rob you of God’s blessings if you are not careful (Colossians 2:8). Nonetheless, there is an agreed precept between philosophy and Biblical Christianity: your contentment in life can be found when following a code of behavior.

The Bible assumes you are capable of moral actions. There are certain actions which you are bound to perform. The obligations performed as a social duty are, definition, acts of morality. Each Society adjust the rules, but one fact remains: morality is associated with you keeping accepted rules.

Waiter

For instance, most people do not tip in a restaurant here in New Zealand. It is considered immoral for an employer to not provide servers with full wages. With the provision, tipping is not a necessary part of the server’s wages. However, in the United States, it is customary to tip a server regardless of any wages being received. The respective customs reflect differing moral standards for its Society.

At university, you will be given guide-lines and expectations for your behavior. Jump up and down all you want about your individual rights! It won’t make a difference. Whenever individuals join together, there must be agreement on a set of rules. Otherwise, chaos results and there will be no order for your educational environment.

The Power of Contentment

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming sequel to 56 Notions of Success. The new book will be titled, Ethical Success.

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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. ― H.L. Mencken

YOU are responsible for determining and exercising what is good, not Society. Society is not a person; you are. Society is a collective of individuals and entities. You cannot hold Society responsible for your behavior. You do what you choose.

And only you are responsible for your own contentment.

Contentment empowers your decisions to find that Golden Mean. It is more powerful than happiness. Happiness can be fleeting; contentment is a steady, constant state of being.

On more than one occasion I have counseled persons on this point. I remember when Doreen came to me distraught. As she told her story she reached a point of anger and proclaimed, “It’s his fault that I’m not content with living and I never will be until he changes.”

Explaining to Doreen that he is not responsible for her contentment was a delicate exercise. That work, however, began with a blunt statement of fact: “Doreen, you and you only are responsible for your contentment. Do not give that power to anyone else.”

Contentment is such a powerful virtue!

Western society wages war on contentment. It bombards its inhabitants with commercialized desires of discontent. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have and why we supposedly cannot live without these objects.

Contentment, however, does not mean trying to improve your Self. The danger lies in connecting self-improvement with tangible items as proof of growth. That is similar to rewarding yourself food when you are dieting to lose weight. It is self-sabotaging.

Contentment begins when you keep life simple. The number of lands, vehicles, or electronic gadgets cannot determine your contentment. Knowing how to enjoy what you do have is determinate. So often we ignore the beautiful sunsets, birds flying through the air, children laughing, and rivers flowing. Learn to enjoy the simple things and you will discover the power of contentment.

Doreen grew from her experience. She was in a season of life where she required public transportation. The problem was the closest stop to her work was two miles away. Rather than focus on what she didn’t have: a car, a supportive husband, etc, she began to enjoy that two mile walk. She reported that she began to notice things she never saw before: lizards stalking dragonflies, raccoons coming out of the lagoon, rabbits jumping freely, kingfishers on the power lines and herons in the water. She said she felt more rich enjoying the moment than any tangible asset she has ever owned.

And that brings us to another aspect of Contentment: keeping finances streamlined. Unethical expenditures are those spent out of greed or excess. We get so caught up with the unethical commercialized life-style that our money situations become complicated. How many credit cards do you really require? It is no wonder Aristotle taught, “Happiness is self-contentedness.”

Keep your relationships satisfying. That includes work-related ones too. Lasting happiness and security are discovered when ethical behavior yields a good reputation and honor. True friendship and happy family life are also part of the reward for ethical relationships.

Contentment is found in peaceful and secured environments, not in those where others are manipulated for personal gain. Routine might seem like you are “in a rut,” but it is also signals an ordered environment. Don’t look outside of yourself for fulfillment; look within.

Challenge: Ethics begins by staying true to your Self. Do I act with integrity and enjoy contentment as its reward?